The Growing Power And Cooling Problem
There is no doubt that as the economy tightens, many senior officers of companies all over California, like San Diego and Irvine, are looking a lot closer at their balance sheets; particularly the ballooning total costs of the company data center. The major financial and technical focus for years has been virtualizing and reducing the cost of IT equipment as companies have grown. Fortunately, today’s new servers are now producing 70-80 times higher performance for the same dollar costs as 8-10 years ago. At the same time, the equivalent performance per Watt has increased 16 times. The increasing data center costs seem to be contradictory to the server statistics just described. What is driving this is the rising cost of power and cooling for this equipment. While server costs have remained flat, the cost of California electrical power to drive this high performance power hungry equipment has grown exponentially. Suddenly the new focus at companies is the actual overall cost of running the data center rather than just attempt to decrease money spent on IT equipment and software.
Despite all the performance advantages in technology, the increasing number of server racks and storage equipment every year is compounding the financial situation for companies. Simultaneously as the number of equipment racks grow, the perception that the equipment becomes more mission critical grows as well. This results in a need to make systems more redundant which includes more power and more cooling, thereby compounding the problem by increasing costs. Some of California’s aging and over-crowded data centers require significant capital expenditures to overcome collocation inefficiencies in power and cooling. These costs can run in the millions of dollars.
According to the Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, August 2, 2007, “The energy used by the nation’s servers and data centers is significant. It is estimated that this sector consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006 (1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption) for a total electricity cost of about $4.5 billion. This estimated level of electricity consumption is more than the electricity consumed by the nation’s color televisions and similar to the amount of electricity consumed by approximately 5.8 million average U.S. households. Under current efficiency trends, national energy consumption by servers and data centers could nearly double again in another five years (i.e., by 2011) to more than 100 billion kWh, representing a $7.4 billion annual electricity cost. The peak load on the power grid from these servers and data centers is currently estimated to be approximately 7 gigawatts (GW), equivalent to the output of about 15 baseload power plants. If current trends continue, this demand would rise to 12 GW by 2011, which would require an additional 10 power plants”.
Near Term Solutions
Current demand for power can be contributed to the increased use of electronic transactions in financial services, general data storage, the migration to electronic medical records for healthcare, global e-commerce and services, telecommunications and internet services, increasing disaster recovery requirements, emergency services, national security computing and high performance computing, to name a few.
Executives need to place added focus on the total cost of operation of their data center with an emphasis on reducing energy costs and capital expenditures. The data center environment is in a total state of flux. Resolution to some of these problems will take years to resolve and millions of dollars to fix. Fortunately, some short term solutions can be found while data center problems correct themselves. This includes moving data centers to states that have lower power costs per kWh and utilize hydroelectric power or solar energy when possible. For larger data center applications, moving your data center 400 to 1000 miles away from California or other high power rate states can save $10,000’s of dollars per month. Making this move easier is the tremendous reduction in data transmission costs and remote management of equipment. Key to a successful move is finding a financially strong data center owner, lower power cost alternatives, multiple fiber carriers and appropriate security.